May 13, 2013 7:18 PM by Chris Welty
The Lafayette Parish School System is trying to dig itself out of the hole.
The district is facing a 12-million dollar shortfall from its 400-million dollar budget. Federal and state funding plus fewer grants are causing the deficit. Also, the school system is paying more for retirement and group benefits.
Cuts are inevitable to balance the Lafayette Parish School System's budget. The board is looking at increasing class sizes, consolidating bus stops; which means some students would walk farther; and postponing year two of the turnaround plan next school year.
"We want to move forward with working toward the six year plan. Obviously we can't do all of it, but we want to continue some of it. The only way to do it is for the board to agree to use some of our general fund balance or rainy day fund if you will," said Superintendent Dr. Pat Cooper.
The board could pull six million from its rainy day fund to balance the budget, but, some members are at odds.
"Sooner or later, you're going to run out whether it's 5 million, 12 million or 1 million. If we're spending in deficit, we will run out," said District 6 School Board Representative Greg Awbrey.
District 7 board member Mark Cockerham says, "I think we will eventually have to use it. If it's not this year, maybe next year or the year after. We just don't have the funds the board is used to."
Cooper says it's been a difficult year.
"The cuts we make this year are fairly severe, but if we have to do the same thing next year, it will really set our school system back."
Board members say they will look at the big picture before any cuts are made.
"We are going to have to make some smart decisions. Whether they are the right ones, it's our responsibility to do that and take the chance," said Cockerham.
This week, the school system will hold a series of workshops to discuss the budget. The board will not finalize or adopt a budget until its meeting on Wednesday, June 19th.